The way I see it, naturist fiction can be a kind of speculative fiction – storytelling that seeks to answer a “what if” question. The “what if” might be as simple as “What if when I get out of the shower, I just stay naked the rest of the day?” (Thanks to one of our readers who wrote to this site wanting to know about just such a story). Naturist stories or novels that are more broadly speculative show naturism as the lifestyle of an entire planet or people, or as a lifestyle that may bestow special powers on those who practice it. Still other stories explore what could be the consequences of widespread naturism beyond the limits of today’s very restricted society. All of these kinds of works seek not only to answer a “what if” question in the style of classic speculative fiction, but also to explore the ramifications that spin out from it. What if firefighters started fires instead of putting them out, asked Ray Bradbury. What if it were possible to reanimate a corpse, asked Mary Shelley. What if there were a planet without gender, asked the late, great Ursula K. Le Guin, who also said, in her 2014 National Book Foundation Award acceptance speech,
“I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.”
Those hard times are already here. And, I humbly suggest, here too are the voices of the kinds of writers Le Guin describes.
As I’ve said before, and as I think we can all agree, naturism / nudism is no panacea. Yet we all know of stories – our own personal histories as well as those of others – that show just how beneficial being nude socially, in nature, can be. In writing these stories, elaborating them, and spinning them out to imagine the effects of social nudity on a large scale, writers of naturist fiction “see alternatives to how we live now,” “see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being,” and “even imagine some real grounds for hope.” And not just writers of naturist fiction, but all of us brave naturists not only “remember freedom” but often literally embody it.
Can you be a freedom-loving naturist while also a slave to a particular mindset or habit? Yes, of course. Naturists are only human, and we can even become overly obsessed with naturism itself. And yet we are wise to write about, to film, paint, dance and otherwise record and interpret the roles of naturism in our lives, because too many of our fellow humans either ignore or refuse to believe that something as ordinary as nudity – or perhaps so seemingly scandalous – can have such potent and positive effects. This disconnect is often what leads us to ask the “what ifs” of naturist speculative fiction: What if social nudity were widely accepted? What if naturism were found to produce not only greater acceptance and understanding of our bodies, but also benefits that we have yet to study or even discover? What if ancient, more nude-friendly societies had already discovered some of these benefits? What if a naturist billionaire were to fund a campaign promoting social nudism? The goal of a speculative fiction writer is to help us imagine how scenarios such as these could play out.
Here are some of the colorfully specific “what ifs” posed by the writers of this naturist fiction collective:
What if scientists find a portal to an Earth-like world with human inhabitants who use no clothes? (Paul’s Mirror Earth series)
What if a troubled man on a spiritual pilgrimage learns that through nudity he finds healing and deep archetypal understanding? (Robert’s René Beauchemin series)
What if college students and professors open up their campus to clothes-free courses? (Will’s novel Co-ed Naked Philosophy)
What if a young woman discovers that through being naked in nature she develops extraordinary powers as a shaman? (Paul’s Naked Crow series)
What if the original secrets of El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth had to do with social nudity? (Will’s novel Aglow)
What if super-moths destroy all the clothing on a Caribbean island? (Will’s serialized fiction Bugs and Bares)
What if British visitors to Germany get hooked on social nudism and attempt to bring it back home? (Paul’s novel The Unsworth Manor Nudes)
What if a naked Don Quixote sets out on a quest to correct misconceptions about nudity? (Will’s serialized fiction The Nude Adventures of Doff de Chonez pa su Mecha)
Reader, thanks for your support in engaging with us, not only in the living experience of social nudism, but also in Le Guin’s vision of “other ways of being” and “real grounds for hope” through imagining the consequences of naturism’s widespread acceptance and benefits.
4 thoughts on “Asking the Naturist “What If”s”
What if the people wearing clothes that naturists call textiles were in the minority and they were getting called all sorts of name’s etc
Exactly – that’s a solid “what if.” I think there are some stories out there with that kind of tables-turned scenario. Actually it reminds me of this new French TV series that takes place in a nude future (http://www.fotogramas.es/series-television/Nu-serie-nudista-francia-actores-desnudos-estreno). I haven’t seen the program yet, but it certainly holds promise for an interesting portrayal of a nude society: in 2026 France, there is a “transparency law” that requires social nudity. The crime that starts off the series is a murder, and the naked detectives find the body totally dressed…
It’s one thing to think of “Naturist Fiction” as something that simply gives us stories about a world in which people are blithely wearing nothing. But to put “Naturist Fiction” in the context of Ursula LeGuin’s 2014 National Book Award acceptance speech, in which she speaks boldly of “hard times coming” when we not only want “entertainment” but actually hunger for alternative visions of the world is to elevate it to a new category of something that we have got to take seriously: it’s no longer just whimsy … But then: maybe whimsy is something we need really to take more seriously too, is it not.
Thanks for leaving this comment, Allen! You’ve summed up the gist here. I absolutely feel that we naturist writers are presenting alternatives, grounds for hope, contexts for freedom… which are all quite serious things. As far as the idea of whimsy… If the doffing of one’s garments can be framed in a story as an act of whimsy – but an act that, nonetheless, can have powerfully good long-term consequences – then, yes, whimsy is something to take quite seriously, too. The word “whimsy” is perhaps more equivalent to “frivolity” then to “humor,” but I would say that I’ve never thought of my writing as frivolous, whereas humor, on the other hand, is a quality I am almost always glad to cultivate in my writing. Humor and whimsy can both lead a reader to greater enjoyment of profound truths. “Much truth is said in jest.”